Singapore ignores UN’s pleas and executes man over 1kg of cannabis

Tangaraju Suppiah | via Transformative Justice Collective

Singapore ignored pleas from the United Nations and executed a man this morning found guilty of conspiring to traffic 1 kilogramme of cannabis.

At dawn, 46 year old Tangaraju Suppiah was hanged at Changi Prison in eastern Singapore, the Singapore Prison Service reported. His family received his body and a death certificate at the prison this morning.

Tangaraju was sentenced to death in 2018 for “abetting the trafficking of more than 1kg of cannabis (1,017.9 grams)” from Malaysia to Singapore in 2015, according to a statement from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). Trafficking just 500 grammes of cannabis merits the death penalty in Singapore.

In the anxious weeks leading up to Tangaraju’s hanging, family members, activists, and even the United Nations requested the Singaporean authorities to “urgently reconsider” the execution and made appeals for clemency. A last minute appeal made by his family was rejected by the court yesterday. President Halimah Yacob did not take action to stop the execution.

Activist groups pointed out that cannabis is legal in neighbouring Thailand, where anyone over 20 years old can legally buy a kilogramme of cannabis. Transformative Justice Collective said it was “illogical” that someone could be executed for a substance being freely enjoyed, traded, and used medicinally in the same region.

Activists also raised concerns about the weakness of the evidence used to convict Tangaraju as well as that he was not given access to a Tamil interpreter. He was forced to represent himself at his last appeal as his family was unable to secure a lawyer for the hearing.

Richard Branson – founder of Virgin – spoke out online to say that Singapore might be about to execute an innocent man because Tangaraju was “not anywhere near” the drugs at the time of his arrest. In response, Singapore’s Home Affairs Ministry said Branson showed “disrespect for Singapore’s judges and our criminal justice system with such allegations.”

Even Malaysia, which also has some of the strictest drug laws in the world, did away with the mandatory death penalty recently, citing that it was not a successful deterrent for criminals.

In Singapore, the law mandates the death penalty for traffickers of cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and ketamine – beyond a certain amount.

The death of Tangaraju was the first execution the city-state has seen in six months. Six people were executed in Singapore in 2022, all found guilty of drug crimes.

This morning, Thailand’s Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for a former school director who shot dead three people, including a two year old, during a robbery of a gold shop in 2020.

World News

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.